Friday, September 29, 2006

Viva Las Vegas!

Sin City. The City of Lost Wages. Garden of Neons. Entertainment Capital of the world. Vegas! Thats sums it all up! :)

Name the sin and you have it there! Wine, women and wealth - the three bad vices of men, in abundance and lawful! Weddings and divorces in equal numbers! And guess wot? Vegas is known to have the maximum number of chapels per capita! :D All hotels on the strip were a rip off. All big names right from Caesars and Bellagios, to Venetian and Hilton. Stratosphere, the tallest point on the strip, was on the Northern end and Mandalay Bay on the southern. Each of these hotels were teeming with casinos, with slots at every possible corner in the place! The beautiful thing about this place was its magnificence! Each hotel had a theme, and structures in mammoth proportions! There was New York-New York (Liberty Lady and Empire State Building), to Paris (Eiffel and Arc De Truimphe to half its actual size) to MGM's insignia - the roaring lion, and Luxor's Pyramid with its famed beam of light (according to some, which can be seen from space!).

A drive from one end of the strip to the other, and you realise why its called the 'Sin City'. Vegas, as we learnt is the only city in the world where you are legally allowed to consume alcohol on the streets and roam around topless. The strip is lined on either sides with bright neon casino lights with each Casino having their own LCD hoardings, advertising the shows they offer. The energy in the air there is palpable by just standing at a place on the strip and letting it sink it. Vegas rocks!

Gambling was a lure but we simply couldn't succumb to it! :D I think you can attribute that to good upbringing! :) We walked the place around, seeing all the shows possible. Bellagio's fountains were exquisite, sirens of TI spectacular, Forum shops in Caesars a fine replica of Rome, Royal White Tiger Habitat of Mirage, the Majestic Lions of MGM and the Gondolas of Venetian. We missed Volcano of Mirage, but I guess we covered quite a bit otherwise! :)

Our stay started with touring Bally's, Bellagio's and Caesars', and winning peanuts along the way! :D Our breakfast/brunch at Bally's was simply ....ummm... GRAND. The buffet spread was enormousss! From like a millions desserts to muffins, cakes, pies, fruits, and the remaining egg, pork and beef delights, we were loaded when we stepped out at 12! Shayaan (from LA) met us soon, and we had a merry time catching up and raking up Abhu's past! ;) We toured the Mirage (one of the oldest casinos around) and TI, and then the Venetian. Venetian was almost like a palace in there! :D We ended with a quick dinner buffet at the Harrah's (yummmm seafood I heard from the 2 guys), and rushed off to the catch the show "Fantasy" :D Oh, what a marvellous ending to such a lovely day! ;)

Next day, early and bright, we grabbed a sub, and after playing a little of roulette, we headed to the strip. After walking around a little, we went on to catch a burger at "In-n-Out" burgers! Shayaan was absolutely a fan of the fresh burgers that they dished out, and we relished them equally. Shayaan had to get back to LA, and then there were 2! :) Walking the streets of Vegas, we picked up a frozen Margarita (for those unaware, its a tequila drink, mixed with lime or lemon) :D So much for me being a teetotaler all my life! I guess walking helped and it didnt hit us :) Our last evening in Vegas ended with a fabulous dinner buffet at Bally's and a wonderful show Jubilee's (we rated it better than Moulin Rouge)! The sets and the costumes were top of the rung! Its what we would called "finesse". The magic would forever be with us..

The next day was more of checking out and catching a bite at Tamba's (an indian cuisine buffet) and wrapping up, and heading to the airport. But I guess, the phenomenon called "Las Vegas" would forever be with us!

From all the glitter and glamour of Vegas. Farewell!


Wooonder of all Wonderss!

I can still close my eyes and sense the serenity and magnificence of the place! The wide expanse of this natural beauty can surpass anything one can imagine! The dips and the rises, the precipise and the gradients, the layers and the light....ummm........ a trip of a lifetime! Talking about the mighty "Grand Canyon" you bet!

We took off on 20th September, a day after hubby dear passed his PMI exam (which means he can now officially delegate!). So it was now party time! :D We were all set for a couple of days in GC followed by the weekend in LV. We flew out from Philadelphia International Airport to Las Vegas. With the flight being on time we reached the McCarran International airport in LV at about 10:30 PM local time (Pacific Time).

After reaching LV, we rented a fully loaded Chevy Malibu from Enterprise and drove away to take our first look at Las Vegas Boulevard, popularly known as "The strip". Since we had to leave early next morning for GC, we then checked into our room at Golden Palms, about half a mile off the strip.

Next morning we left the hotel at bang 6. The Colorado river separates the states of Nevada and Arizona. The world famous 'Hoover Dam' is considered to be the official boundary between these 2 states. Since it was very early when we reached the dam, none of the tourist facilities had opened for the day. We parked at one of the designated parking lots and walked across the Hoover Dam. It is truely an engineering marvel that creates 'Lake Mead' the largest man-made lake in the world, upstream. The dam is so gigantic and so gorgeous that it really has to be seen to be believed. After a brief 30 min halt at Hoover Dam, we began our long drive to our destination, the Grand Canyon. Driving on the freeway at a break neck speed of 85 mph (145 kmph!!!?? unbelievable eh?), we reached GC in under 3 hours!

After paying the $25 Park Entry fee, we proceeded to take our first look at the Canyon. Talk about Grandeur, and I guess this is as close as it gets! Its huuuumungous! It is proof of over 6 billion years of the evolution of the earth, spanning a width of 20 miles north to south, with a periphery of 200 miles and 1 mile deep! You simply cant believe your eyes, that such a wonder of nature can actually exist! There have been 13-16 layers of geological deposits, each spanning eons, that have been deposited to make the abyss as deep as it is. The south rim is the more popular one of its northern cousin. The place has plenty of points startegically located to give you different views of the canyon. They have actually named a few points after Vishnu, Bramha and Shiva! :) I guess they are worldly acknowledged to be universal gods.

We covered quite a few points from Mather's Point, along the Kaibab Trail, followed by the Hermit's Rest trail. We managed to squeeze in a 3 mile walk (4.7 kms) from "Abyss Point" to "Pima Point". The meandering trail was right on the edge of the canyon, offering breath-taking views along the way. We were ga-ga over the place all the way, and it took us short of 2.5 hours to make this walk! :D The day ended with the sunset at Hopi Point, which was a marvel. The colours that the sky and the Canyon offer at this moment are simply astounding. The canyon is famed to be its best at sunrise and sunset from a few locations. The sunset was a beauty! The sunrise was still to be seen.

We were sojourned at Days Inn at Williams which was about 60 miles south from GC. Took us about an hour getting there, and we were all set in for the night. Sunrise was at 6:18 am the next morning, and it was imperitive that we made it. That translated into leaving close to 5 AM from the hotel, arriving at GC, and then driving another 25 miles to THE point (called Desert View). This is the vantage point on the eastern most side, with a beautiful watch tower, giving us a splendid view. Alas, sunrise is a tricky business, since twilight and dawn preceed it. We lost our nerves and made it to the "Grandview" point which was midway. A few clouds dampened our spirits, but it was still a sight out of the world. The way the canyon gradients slowly changed colours from dark, to light, to an orange glow, to read and yellow. We had to rush from there, just to catch our flight from the local GC airport for an eagles view of the canyon in the morning light. We had bargained for a 20 seater plane ride, and what we got was this! 20-seater plane ride, a chopper ride right into the depths of the canyon, at the banks of the Colorado, a muddy rafting trip down the waters of the magnificent 2700 miles long river and a luncheon at the rim of canyon, facing its beautiful facade!!!!! AND ALL THIS AT THE SAME PRICE!!!!! Yahoooooooooooooooo! :D What more could we ask for! You ought to come and watch the tape, is all I can say. I think this episode would be ingrained in my life forever!

We finished this trip by driving back to LV, still dazed by our fate and sheer luck! :) LV was a far flung from where we just had been. In the lap of paradise....

More on Vegas in the following blog! :) Stay tuned folks!